Toxic Lismore tip fire could take days to fully extinguish
UPDATE, 1.30pm: AUSTRALIA'S leading environmental auditor is warning of poor air quality in the town due to the fire at the Lismore Recycling & Recovery Centre in Wyrallah Rd.
NSW Environment Protection Authority Regional Director Waste, Cate Woods, said the organisation was continuing to receive updates on the fire.
"The latest advice that site conditions have improved, and council staff are actively working on extinguishing the smouldering compost stockpiles," she said.
"The fire at the waste facility, along with bush fires in the area, is contributing to poor air quality, although currently, prevailing wind conditions appear to be reducing the worst impacts on Lismore itself."
Ms Woods said the EPA urged residents to heed the advice of NSW Health, and their doctors, to stay indoors where possible or make use of the free masks being offered by the council.
The EPA is continuing to work with the council to address the impact of the fire on waste management and will be attending the site this week, after the residual fire activity has been extinguished.
Original story: THE flames may have been extinguished, but a toxic smoke haze continues to hang over Lismore as the fallout from the fire at the tip on Wyrallah Rd continues to smoulder.
And it could be days before it reopens.
The blaze, which engulfed the Materials Recovery Facility at the centre in East Lismore, is currently under investigation.
As well as burning compost, there are also the issues of toxic gases and sorting out where to send the region's rubbish.
There's also the serious issue of maintaining OH&S controls and meeting strict environmental protocols to ensure yellow crazy ants don't infest other areas via green waste.
Lismore City Council's executive director of infrastructure services, Gary Murphy, said the site will remain closed until the fire in the compost piles is extinguished and damage to the facility is assessed.
Now that the strong winds have abated, the compost piles are being turned and saturated with water to fully extinguish the fire, which could take several days, he said.
Mr Murphy said the council had put in place interim measures for the collection and disposal of waste while the centre is closed.
"There are currently delays to waste collection across the city, particularly with green organics bins. We are urging residents to be patient and leave bins out until they are emptied," he said.
"The collection of green waste is complicated by the yellow crazy ant exclusion zones still in place.
"Green waste collected in Lismore cannot be disposed of elsewhere without approval from the Department of Primary Industries (and) we are currently working with the department to implement a solution but this is causing some delays to our collections."
In the short-term, while the waste facility is inoperable, the council will transport recycling from Lismore to Chinderah in the Tweed Shire for processing, while general waste will continue to go to Ipswich in Queensland via Richmond Valley.
Mr Murphy said Lismore's Brewster Street Drop-off Centre reopened today and the Nimbin Transfer Station will be open Tuesday to Saturday this week, with additional staff in place.
Residents are able to use waste vouchers at this location.
Meanwhile, animals from the Lismore Pound have been moved to Ballina Pound and the Animal Rights & Rescue Group to ensure they are not harmed should the wind direction change and smoke infiltrate the facility.
The fire, which started on Sunday morning in the compost piles and waste facility, was quickly contained by emergency service personnel in the recycling building, but the compost piles continue to smoulder.
Smoke from the fire could potentially be harmful to people with respiratory or lung problems, and warnings remain in place for residents that can smell or see smoke to stay indoors with windows and doors closed until the smoke subsides or use a respirator if venturing outside.
People with asthma who can see or smell smoke can collect free respirators at the Bunnings trade desk by showing ID with a residential address within or around Lismore.
"The fire has raised a series of complex issues around managing our waste and recycling, and our other operations on site," Mr Murphy said.
"Council is working through these issues as quickly as we can to ensure the least disruption to residents.
"Our major focus in the short-term is to extinguish the fire. Once this has been done we can focus on assessing damage to the facility and get an idea of what works need to take place immediately in order to reopen the facility to the public."
Fire & Rescue NSW Lismore Station Officer David Mooney urged residents to not burn off in their backyard simply because they cannot take rubbish to the Lismore Recycling & Recovery Centre.
He said big fires can start with just a spark.
"We have been to some backyard fires where people are burning off rubbish, which is illegal," he said.
"Sparks can carry with the wind and everything is so dry, we don't want any more fires."